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Why Does My Cat Want to Go Outside So Bad? 6 Vet Approved Reasons

American Polydactyl cat walking outside
Image Credit: Jenny Margarette, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Elizabeth Gray

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	Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg DVM Photo

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Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you can’t open a single door in your house without your cat trying to bolt, you know how stressful the constant escape attempts can become. But have you ever wondered why your cat is constantly trying to flee to the great outdoors? Cats might be following their social instinct of exploring the outdoors and looking for food.

In this article, we’ll cover six likely reasons your cat wants to go outside so badly. We’ll also cover some solutions to your problem and let you know why experts recommend your cat stay inside.

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The 6 Reasons Why Your Cat Wants to Go Outside So Bad

1. Looking for Love

Both male and female cats may try to escape the house in search of a mate if they aren’t spayed or neutered. Unneutered male cats have a strong instinct to search for females and reproduce, which may draw them outside at any time.

Female cats may be uninterested in going outside until they go into heat. One of the signs that a female cat is in heat is restlessness and a sudden interest in going outdoors, often displayed by pacing and vocalizing. Because females can go into heat every 2–3 weeks during their breeding season, this can be very tough to live with!

Solution: Get your cat spayed or neutered as soon as they are old enough. Not only will this reduce your cat’s desire to go outside, but it also makes your kitty much more pleasant to live with. Your cat will also be less likely to develop health problems like mammary cancer, testicular tumors, or a life-threatening uterine infection called pyometra.

2. Looking for Food

red tabby cat hunting a small bird
Image Credit: rihaij, Pixabay

Even though domestic cats get all the nutrition they need handed to them on a platter daily, they may still feel the urge to go outside and hunt for food. Cats are natural predators, with instincts leading them to stalk, pounce, and capture prey. If your cat regularly spies birds or other small animals outside, they may try to dart outside to hunt. This can be especially scary if your cat tries to run out at night when wild or feral cats are engaged in hunting.

Solution: Provide your cat with toys that allow them to utilize natural hunting behaviors. Spend time playing with your cat every day as well.

3. Marking Territory

In the wild, cats maintain a home range, which they guard against others of their species. To signal ownership, the cats mark their territory in various ways, including spraying urine and scratching on trees. Your cat probably considers your house their territory, but they likely think of your yard as their domain as well.

Because of this, they may try to get outside so they can mark their territory. This is especially likely to happen if there is a stray or outdoor cat hanging around outside your house.

Solution: Keep an eye out for stray cats outside your house. If you know who they belong to, speak to their owners to see if they’ll keep their kitty away, letting them know your cat is developing behavior problems in response. Rescue groups may be able to trap and relocate unowned cats.

4. To Socialize

cats playing outside the house
Image Credit: rihaij, Pixabay

Sometimes, the sight of another cat or even a human outside is enough to spark an escape attempt because your feline wants to make friends. Many cats are more social than people realize, given their reputation for being aloof and solitary. If your cat is lonely, they may head outside in search of others. Again, this may be more common if other cats hang around your house.

Solution: Spend plenty of quality time with your cat. If you work long hours, consider hiring a pet sitter to come by and play with your kitty every day. If you can afford another pet, consider if adopting a new friend for your cat is the right choice for your home.

5. To Explore

Your cat may try to run outside just because they feel like exploring and enjoying the fresh air. The outdoors is full of sunshine, exciting smells, and fast-moving bugs to chase. Who can blame bored indoor cats for trying to hurry out the door and enjoy it?

Cats that previously lived outdoors may be more likely to try to escape for this reason. However, any cat may feel the urge to explore, given their natural curiosity.

Solution: Consider training your cat to walk on a harness and leash. This will allow your cat to explore safely. Another option is to create a cat-safe outdoor enclosure for your cat to enjoy fresh air and sunshine. You can buy inexpensive, portable cat tents or invest in a permanent structure like a catio. Just make sure that your cat is on appropriate preventatives for parasites like fleas!

6. To Spend Time With You!

man playing cat outdoor
Image Credit: Karpova, Shutterstock

If you spend a lot of time outside in your yard gardening, playing with your kids, or lounging in a hammock, your cat may try to escape the house to spend time with you. According to research, most cats bond closely with their owners and enjoy spending time with them.

Some breeds are especially social, like Maine Coons and Siamese. If your cat won’t let you perform indoor tasks without hovering, why would it be different for outdoor ones?

Solution: If you have a fenced-in yard, you can let your feline friend keep you company as long as you keep a close eye on them. If not, revisit the idea of a leash or portable cat tent.

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Why Can’t I Just Let My Cat Go Outside?

If you’re tired of constantly blocking your cat from escaping or listening to their yowling as they search for an exit, you might be tempted to give up and let them outside. However, this can be risky for your cat, local birds, and wildlife.

On average, outdoor cats typically have much shorter lifespans, as much as 10-12 years less according to some estimates, than indoor cats. Several risks endanger outdoor cats, including the following:

  • Infectious diseases
  • Parasites
  • Attacks from other cats, dogs, or wild predators
  • Car accidents
  • Ingestion of toxic plants or substances

Also, outdoor cats that aren’t spayed or neutered may contribute to the large population of feral and homeless cats. They may also become a nuisance to neighbors, disturbing their pets or using their gardens as litter boxes.

Both feral and owned outdoor cats also pose a danger to local wildlife and birds. In the United States alone, it’s estimated that cats kill between 6.3 and 22.3 billion small mammals each year, along with up to 4 billion birds.



As we’ve learned, if your cat wants to go outside, there could be several reasons for their behavior. While unsupervised access to the outdoors is dangerous for your cat, that doesn’t mean your kitty can’t still enjoy some fresh air exploration.

Leash training cats is becoming much more popular, with some adventurous humans even bringing their kitties along on hikes, camping trips, and even paddleboard excursions. If you decide to let your cat spend time outdoors, ensure they’re up-to-date on their shots and on appropriate parasite prevention.

Featured Image Credit: Jenny Margarette, Shutterstock

About the Author

Elizabeth Gray
Elizabeth Gray
Elizabeth Gray is a lifelong lover of all creatures great and small. She got her first cat at 5 years old and at 14, she started working for her local veterinarian. Elizabeth spent more than 20 years working as a veterinary nurse before stepping away to become a stay-at-home parent to her daughter. Now, she is excited to share her hard-earned knowledge (literally--she has scars) with our readers. Elizabeth lives in Iowa with her family, including her two fur kids, Linnard, a husky mix and Algernon, the worldʻs most patient cat. When not writing, she enjoys reading, watching all sports but especially soccer, and spending time outdoors with her family.

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